WestJet’s inaugural flight from Nanaimo to Calgary went as scheduled Monday, but severe flooding in Calgary put a damper on a trade mission that was supposed to have symbolized new economic opportunities between the cities prompted by the direct link.
A delegation of about 30 mid-Island politicians, economic development officials and local business owners were originally booked to travel to Calgary as part of Team Nanaimo to meet with officials there to forge new economic relationships. Instead, three people from the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation made the trip as a goodwill gesture.
Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan, who was scheduled to participate as well, said it didn’t make sense to pursue the mission because of the massive cleanup underway in Calgary.
“It is disappointing, a lot of work went into it, but what can you do?” said Ruttan. “The people who are going are going to just touch base with WestJet and assure them we’re happy with the new service.”
We were so anxious to see this service started, people here at the [Nanaimo] airport have worked very hard … and certainly Nanaimo to Calgary was foremost in our plans,” Ruttan said.
More than 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes in southern Alberta late last week as heavy rains caused several rivers and tributaries to spill their banks and flow into dozens of neighbourhoods. Downtown Calgary, including the Stampede grounds, a place where Team Nanaimo had scheduled many of its meetings, was inundated with flood waters and remains closed in many areas until at least mid-week.
Despite the setback, a celebration was held at Nanaimo Airport Monday morning to welcome WestJet. The air carrier announced its new Nanaimo-Calgary Encore service in February, which will operate one flight a day from each city. WestJet will use its fleet of 78-passenger Canadian-built Bombardier Q400 NextGen turboprops on the route.